Colorado Backcountry Skiing Continues, D System Improves (June 20, 2005)

Post by blogger | June 20, 2005      

Whew, I thought I’d get a blog breather by now, but it goes on and on. Excellent descents are still happening. This past Friday Pete Sowar and companions had another success on his Castle Peak, Colorado, South Face route (IV D17 R4). It’s simply amazing that our season has gone on this long with this much quality.

A few days before that, Neal Beidleman and Bob Perlmutter made a surprisingly good late season descent of the Stammberger Route on North Maroon (Elk Mountains, Colorado, IV D15 R3). Neal is an excellent photographer and put together a nice slideshow that celebrates this fine route. His presentation is a large PDF (broadband only).

It’s said that Colorado snow conditions are still quite variable, with solid compacted nieve on most aspects, but unconsolidated snow still lurking here and there, with possibility of dangerous wet slabs and large sloughs that may propagate to monster proportions.

I’ve been amused of late in hearing the term “slough management” in relation to this spring’s Colorado backcountry skiing. I guess the idea here is that you’re somehow in control of the “slough” you trigger. Perhaps this is so with perfect conditions, or on a steep face of solid maritime snow such as that of the Alaskan Chugach. But you might need a reality check if you’re using the term “slough management” for Colorado skiing. If you’re getting the snow to move on a Colorado descent, there is a good possibility that it’ll break above you (as happened recently to an individual on the Maroon Bells). More, small Colorado “sloughs” have a disturbing tendency to trigger larger slab avalanches that result in severe injury or death if you’re involved. A better and more humble term for all this might be “slough guesswork.”


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